Climate change is in almost everybody’s mind, but the government can’t (or won’t) do a thing about it. The government has never been a force for change, only relying on changing attitudes and outside forces for their policies. Technology will save the world, but maybe not the technology you’re expecting.
Recycling, Electric Cars, Solar and Hydropower
Recycling paper and plastics, driving an electric vehicle, switching to solar and hydropower — you might think these kinds of technology will save the planet, but they won’t. Recycling involves using a lot of energy and resources, sometimes more than actually making the original material. The majority of recyclable materials don’t make it to recycling plants. Instead, they fill up landfills and stay around for decades. Electric cars don’t make sense in the USA. The nation gets close to 80 percent of its energy from fossil fuels. You’re charging your electric vehicle with fossil fuels and passing through an electrical grid makes your consumption less efficient. Solar and hydropower? Solar power only works during the daytime, and hydropower requires massive deforestation, and it still produces greenhouse gases.
Forced vs. Organic Change
Forcing people to change their habits, attitude, or preferences through legislation and proactive advocacy generally doesn’t work. Change must come from the people and the free market. Give people a better product, and they will gladly switch. Nobody forced people to buy the iPhone; they just did because it was a better product. Tablets and phones are making print media obsolete; digital technology has done more for the planet than 20 years’ worth of recycling when it comes to paper. Cloud-based document management systems have allowed large corporations to do away with paper. Transport and fuel costs have also been cut as you can now send digital copies over the internet instead of sending actual paper. For there to be a revolution in the car industry, corporate players need to make an electric car that completely obliterates gas-powered ones in terms of efficiency and practicality. Change can’t be forced. Without technological — and practical — innovation, it will take generations to realize meaningful change.
Embracing Nuclear Energy
It all boils down to clean energy. Waste production is a whole other matter, but when it comes to climate change, clean energy is the deciding factor. Solar and wind are not reliable, and hydropower isn’t that good for the environment. However, the world already has a source of clean and dependable energy in nuclear power. The much-maligned atomic energy doesn’t deserve its scary reputation. Modern nuclear plants have zero chances of melting down like Chernobyl. Even the plants in disaster-hit Fukushima, Japan only increased the radiation in the vicinity by two millirems, which is even less than the additional natural radiation you receive in most tropical countries. A running nuclear plant increases the pollution within a 50-mile radius by only 0.01 millirem per year, which is less than the radiation you get from watching a day of television.
Technology will save the world, but it needs to be practical to be adopted. Moving towards solving climate change will require innovations from the free market and clean energy form nuclear power.